The exhibition The Artwork as a Living System provides an overview of the work of the Austrian-French artist duo Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau since the early 1990s. Straddling science, technology and art, Sommerer and Mignonneau have pioneered the “Art of Interface,” in which innovative technical interfaces enable physical interaction between simulative visual worlds and the world of the natural sensory organs. Very early on, they also used algorithms to represent the forms of living beings as well as their evolution and growth. In fourteen installations, created only through the actions of the audience, man-made artificial systems are shown that exhibit behavior like that of natural living organisms. Technical devices originally designed by the two artists produce virtual realities and immersive environments that go beyond our experience to date. Their works, now almost classics of digital art, open a new horizon in which artworks act as living systems. Few artists have shaped the transition from moving-image media to living-image media as have Sommerer and Mignonneau.
“Their works are technologically inventive, scientifically instructive and artistically imaginative. As a result, visitors leave their works richer for aesthetic, playful and cognitive experiences and insights. Sommerer and Mignonneau’s exhibition is more than a cabinet of curiosities, more than a terrarium, more than an aquarium; it shows mythical creatures, artificial creatures, a hitherto unseen panorama of imagination and technical ingenuity.” (Peter Weibel)
Their media-art works, based on scientific findings, open the possibility of exploring the plant growth or the behavior of tiny computer-generated creatures such as flies and beetles and how they are embedded in complex ecosystems. Works such as Interactive Plant Growing (1992), A-Volve (1994) or Portrait on the Fly (2015), housed at the ZKM | Karlsruhe, simulate living systems in which touching real plants or moving in front of a screen generate transformations in digital space. The augmented reality installation AR[t]chive (2022), presented for the first time at this exhibition, allows visitors to explore Sommerer and Mignnonneau’s archive in AR.
Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau: The Artwork as a Living System offers a comprehensive overview of the Austrian-French artist duo’s oeuvre, paying tribute to their life’s work as internationally active media artists, pioneers, researchers, and teachers of interactive art.” (Alfred Weidinger).
“Art, science, and technology have undoubtedly opened the door to the world of new forms and processes of life. The continuous work by Sommerer and Mignonneau takes a further step into the future now. Their works allow us to comprehend the tangible, perceptible understanding, the virtuality of the potentially possible, as an essential component of living systems. The retrospective is therefore an invitation to immerse ourselves in precisely these spheres of an open-ended development, to perceive them and in the dual sense of the word, grasp and experiment with them. In the end, users are also an active part of what could be the future evolution and shaping of life.” (Karin Ohlenschläger)
After the show at the ZKM | Karlsruhe from May 7th to July 31st, 2022, the retrospective exhibition is on show at OK Linz during Ars Electronica 2022. and then from September 1st, 2022, to February 26th, 2023. In spring 2023, the retrospective can be viewed at the third partner iMal in Brussels in 2023, as well as during Art Brussels. Finally, from October 2023 until February 2024, it will be shown at the Azkuna Zentroa Alhóndiga in Bilbao.
The exhibition is a co-production of ZKM | Karlsruhe, OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH, Linz and iMal, Brussels, based on an idea of Karin Ohlenschläger.
Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau: The Artwork as a Living System, edited by Karin Ohlenschläger, Peter Weibel and Alfred Weidinger, Leonardo Book Series, MIT Press, 2022, ISBN: 978-0-262-04815-6; with articles by Karin Ohlenschläger, Peter Weibel, Alfred Weidinger, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, Ingeborg Reichle, Birgit Mersmann, Siegfried Zielinski, Tomoe Moriyama and Reinhard Kannonier.